“It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.” ~Peter Gibbons, Office Space
This past November, I was laid off from my corporate job where I had worked in a management level HR position for a million years. Actually, it wasn’t quite that long, but trust me, it felt that way.
But before you feel sorry for me, please know that my termination was not abrupt. I was made aware that my time was coming a full year in advance of the hatchet officially falling, so I was prepared.
I was grateful’ish for the head’s up, but I also felt a bit robbed by the anti-climatic end of my career. In the years before my own fall from the corporate ladder, I had witnessed the lay-off of dozens of co-workers and their responses had varied from peaceful acceptance to fury.
Typically, the news would be delivered and the displaced party would be offered the opportunity to clear out his desk of personal belongings before being escorted from the building; stripped of his Amex, laptop computer and key card.
Most took only their personal photo’s, kids artwork and personalized coffee mugs; abandoning their certificates of achievement and leaving their plants to die….like their careers.
Sometimes though, people would storm out the door shouting, “Burn it!”
Either way, once they were gone, I would casually rise from my desk and head toward their abandoned offices, so that I could loot them for the good stuff before anyone else got a chance; extra laptop power cords, the good stapler, gel pens, an oversized computer monitor.
Sometimes, the seat of their ergonomic office chair was still warm from their body heat when I settled myself into it in my own office.
“He doesn’t need this anymore,” I would say as I slipped my own family photographs into some else’s picture frames.
Then, I would sit back and wonder which type I would be when my time inevitably came. The type who would haul my belongings out in a Staples brand cardboard box that had, moments prior, contained reams of paper? Or, the type who would shout “Burn it!” as I stormed out?
Maybe I’d give them a one figured salute out of my car window as I peeled out of the parking lot, George Michael’s “Freedom” blaring from the speakers. You know, the stuff of legends.
But alas, I will never know. I was given the news at a Starbuck’s….after I’d already paid for my own coffee….and a full year before my last official day.
However, I took comfort in knowing I could slowly clear out my office before the end. So that when my co-workers made their way in to scavenge through my belongings after I’d left at 8:15am on my last day, they would find only some hooks and some wire. Just like the Grinch when he left Who-ville.
But now, here I am, like six months since my lay-off and I am finally going through the boxes of office crap that I didn’t want anyone else to have, but that, for the most part, I don’t want anymore either.
Among other things, the boxes contain literally dozens of small notebooks. I do love notebooks. I’m a list maker and a jotter downer of stray thoughts.
So the notebooks are full of things like daily To-Do’s, (work related and not) grocery shopping lists and random sentences that sprang to mind for who knows what reason. Deep thoughts, like, “You can’t breath and swallow at the same time” and “The mouth of a jelly fish is also it’s butthole.”
Also, the notebooks contain my honest answers to questions asked during group team building exercises and ice breaker activities.
“Tell us about your greatest achievement” and “What do you feel are your top three strengths and your top three weaknesses?” and “What are your five year goals?”
In my notebooks there were always two sets of answers to these questions. What I had to say and the truth.
Question: Tell us about your greatest achievement.
What I was supposed to say: My greatest achievement to date was my promotion into a corporate leadership position at the age of 25, because it ultimately led me to this opportunity and the privilege of working with this team.
The Truth: My son. I gave birth to him au natural. No epidural, just a stick to bite into. (The stick part isn’t actually true, but I like to over-exaggerate).
Question: What do you feel are your top three strengths and your top three weaknesses?
What I was supposed to say:
Strengths: My organizational skills, my ability to listen, my attention to detail.
Weaknesses: I care too much (lie), I sometimes focus too much on perfection (lie), I can be too much a stickler for rules and processes….
Strengths: I’m really good at telling people what I think they want to hear (survival skill learned during my childhood).
I have EXCELLENT selective listening skills.
I’m so obsessed with efficiency that I have figured out how to do this job in, like, four hours a day and I’m pretty sure I could teach a monkey how to do it at this point.
Weaknesses: Shit, only three? I’m going to overachieve here:
- I suck at Twitter.
- I never cut my cuticles, I pick at them sometimes, but that’s about it.
- I run out of gas and have to call AAA at least once a month.
- I don’t always wash my hands after I go to the bathroom.
- I think some of my friends babies are ugly.
- I am NOT a team player.
- I hate small talk
- I hate ice breakers
- I hate team building exercises
- I sometimes still read my old Babysitters Club books.
- I still haven’t finished my son’s baby book. And he’s six.
- Sometimes I hide in the bathroom and watch Netflix and tell my son I’m pooping.
- I never return phone calls….or answer the phone.
- I never listen to voicemails.
- I like to look up the people who were mean to me in high school on social media and it makes me happy when it looks I’m doing better than they are.
- I eat a lot of my kids Easter and Halloween candy.
- I usually throw away the goodie bags my son get’s at birthday parties….after I eat the candy and steal the pencil. (Want to know how many times he’s asked about the location of those goodie bags post party? ZERO times. So no, I don’t feel bad about it either).
- I judge people who don’t use reusable shopping bags.
- People who liter, are people I want to punch in the throat.
- I can never find my keys. Ever.
Question: What are your five year goals?
What I was supposed to say: I love my current role and in five years, I’d like to be seen as a subject matter expert within the department. I would also like to take on more next level managerial responsibilities and take the lead on some bigger projects so that I can build the skills needed to take my next career step.
The Truth: I would like to win the lottery. Preferably a mid-level win. Enough for my husband and I to retire and to share with our family and close friends, but not so much that it makes national news and my hillbilly relatives from the deep south start showing up and asking for money.
If that isn’t in the cards, then I’d like to have the balls to start my own small business.
I would like to have an Instagram account with a check mark next to it.
I would like to own a riding lawn mower.
I would like to be raising some chickens.
I’d really like a yellow beach cruiser bicycle with a brown wicker basket in the front.
I’d like for people to stop being assholes. In other words, I’d like world peace.
As I read through these entries and others like them, I realized two things:
- I was lying to myself when I wrote only 20 weaknesses.
- I’m actually working on a few of my real goals.
I guess I learned something after all.